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Volunteering at ASCO

Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP

11 Oct 2012 10:02 AM

It’s that time of year again, when ASCO solicits volunteers to serve on its committees. One of the more frequent questions that comes up among my colleagues and those I mentor, however, is how to effectively get involved? ASCO has more than 30,000 members, which can be daunting for individuals who wonder if and how they will be called upon as a volunteer.

When I became an attending, I tried every year to get on to a committee, and each year I was not invited. It was incredibly frustrating. I recall asking my mentor, David Spriggs, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, what I needed to do. His reply still resonates with me today—“Publish and network. Become an expert in our field and introduce yourself to the officers and staff at ASCO. It will help you a lot.” Since then I have been fortunate to serve on several committees for ASCO (in addition to being a blogger). As David had suggested, the invitations came as my career blossomed.

Because I’ve written about this previously, I thought it might be helpful to get an insider’s advice about how to get involved. I turned to Cara Molinari, the Senior Director of Education, Science, and Professional Development at ASCO for her thoughts. Cara and I met years earlier through the Breast Cancer Symposium, when I was a member of the program committee. In addition to being a remarkable resource at ASCO, Cara has become a friend—one among many that I have been fortunate to meet through ASCO.

Her advice was as follows:

“ASCO is the premier organization for the practicing clinical oncologist. I think getting involved begins by letting us know you want to get involved—and that is by going to the ASCO website and signing up. In addition, it helps to reach out to a current ASCO chairperson or committee member; that way, current members are able to advocate for potential future members when new rosters are developed. Finally, the best way to become involved is to network; let the ASCO staff know of your interest.”

Cara also summarized the benefits of volunteering:

“Once a volunteer comes on board, they never regret it. As staff, we make sure of it. Volunteering at ASCO is never seen as an encumbrance or ‘obligation’—it’s an honor. Just ask any speaker at any ASCO meeting; they’re certainly not taking a day or days out of their practice for the honoraria. It’s because they’re learning from one another and in doing so, they’re helping move the needle in the delivery of care.”

As an ASCO volunteer myself, I think she pretty much said it all.


Number of Comments: 5
Michael A. Thompson, MD, PhD

Friday, October 12, 2012 8:56 AM

Don - 
Great post!
David L. Graham, MD

Friday, October 12, 2012 11:09 AM

The other note is to recognize that we all can have things to contribute to the organization. It can be easy to feel like "I'm just a local guy, how can I add anthing to ASCO?" I know I certainly did for a number of years.

I would encourage all members reading this to look at the list of committees at ASCO Committees. I have no doubt that you can see something there to make you interested.

Finally, don't let one time of asking to be on a committee and not being included dissuade you. It took me a number of years to get a chance. Just keep being interested and keep asking.
Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP

Saturday, October 13, 2012 8:17 AM

Dear Mike and David, Thanks for the feedback! David- spot on; I hope anyone interested realizes they can contribute. Thanks, D
Tannaz Armaghany

Monday, November 19, 2012 2:10 PM

I just signed up for it. Thank you for the post.
Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP

Monday, November 19, 2012 2:19 PM

Dear Tannaz, Good luck and good for you!! D

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Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP